Douglas J. DAVIES with Nathaniel A. WARNE (Editors). Emotions and Religious Dynamics. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, pp. xii, 220. 2013. ISBN 978-1-4724-1502-8 (-5025 ebk).
Reviewed by Christopher RUPERT S.J., LaStorta Jesuit Residence, 2320 Liverpool Rd., Pickering, ON L1X 1V4.
This outstanding interdisciplinary survey of the relationship between emotions and religious dynamics is “the outcome of a research project prompted by [in the words of Davies] the still far from answered questions of how the underlying emotional configurations of identity influence the ways groups deal with each other.” It is, as he puts it, a ground-clearing and limited foundation-laying exercise.
The collection of its essays is skillfully laid out. The first chapter describes the plan of the book and what lies behind it; the second and third chapters present data from two current ethnographic studies (Sikhs and Buddhists respectively; then historical studies in chapters four and five from the patristic and reformation periods; chapter six takes us to Bernard Lonergan’s way of integrating emotions and religion so as to avoid conflict; chapter seven to the failure of some Psychiatry to adequately address conflicts here unless using (chapter eight) the insights of Ken Wilbur; then considering current views of emotions and religions (chapters nine and ten); and ending with how emotions are coming into play on the internet (Chapter 11).
This format of gnosis, diagnosis, and prognosis (symptoms, analysis, outlook) makes the book an ideal platform for a course on emotions and religion, for self-enrichment, and even for policy makers to learn how to forestall religious-emotional conflict. As a launch and come-on for further investigation of the role of emotions in religious dynamics at both personal and group levels, it is a gem. It also underscores that this must be an interdisciplinary study relying on contribution by ethnographers, historians, sociologists, theologians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and media analysts. Students and educators in peace studies will find this book mind expanding.
I applaud this book. It is well written and engaging. Even its flaws are beneficial. Elizabeth Araweck’s fine survey of the fields studying emotions shows traces of current British insularity that are dispelled in the chapters immediately following. Barnabas Palfrey’s somewhat dense but penetrating examination of Lonergan provides a means to use emotional insight and experience to resolve rather than fuel conflict between religion and emotion. I especially like Marc Clairen’s chapter for its introduction to Wilbur’s understanding of the roles of head and heart in group settings and their aggregations. The ethnographic explorations of Buddhists and Sikhs by Peter Harvey and Eleanor Nesbitt respectively are excellent. Their research implicitly demands we get similar clarity on Islam, Mainland Chinese ideology, etc. and even Republican and Democrat Party worshippers.
This collection of studies focusing on emotions and religious dynamics achieves its goal – to spark interest in the important role emotions play in religious dynamics. We urgently need to tidy up loose ends here or continue to face senseless conflict at all levels of human society from individuals to the topmost groups. That emotions are necessary for religious observance, and that they can be resolved without conflict is made clear. The guidance we can derive from paying attention to this is our best route to foster peace among individuals, groups, and nations.
I would like to have seen some reference to the work begun in this area in the United States in the 1950 to 1990 decades by such giants as Pitirim Sorokin, Robert F. Bales, and characterologists of the Myer’s-Briggs ilk – perhaps by Warrington. I realize these omitted students of human science lie outside the scope of this book. That said, Sorokin’s reflections on love, the characterologiists’ focus on understanding the person, and Bale’s work on the values underlying human conflict and its resolution could add flesh to Lonergan and Wilbur.
I hope this collection of studies will persuade researchers and funding agents to undertake further study into religious conflict, the sources of narrow-minded parochialism, routes to reconciliation, and even alleviation of depression.